child spellingAllor, J.H., Mathes, P.G., Roberts, J.K., Cheatham, J.P, & Champlin, T.M. (2010). Comprehensive reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities: Findings from the first three years of a longitudinal study. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 445-466.

  • This longitudinal experimental study showed that students with intellectual disabilities can learn to read given consistent, explicit, and comprehensive reading instruction over an extended period of time.

Allor,J.H., Champlin,T.M., Gifford, D.B., & Mathes, P.G. (2010). Methods for increasing the intensity of reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities,45(4), 500–511

  • This article presented strategies for providing students with intellectual disabilities with intensive, explicit, systematic instruction to learn to read. The authors emphasized frequent progress monitoring to inform instruction.

Baylis, P., & Snowling, M. (2012). Evaluation of a phonological reading programme for children with Down syndrome. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 28(1), 39-56. doi:10.1177/0265659011414277

  • This article reported the results of a 10-week literacy program for children with Down syndrome who used a whole-word method to read. At the start of the study, participants demonstrated no apparent decoding skills. The literacy intervention included phonological awareness training, phonics, and whole word reading. All children showed significant improvement in word reading skill, alphabet knowledge and decoding with the majority retaining the gains three months after the program ended.

Bird, E., Cleave, P. L., White, D., Pike, H., & Helmkay, A. (2008). Written and Oral Narratives of Children and Adolescents with Down Syndrome. Journal Of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 51(2), 436-450. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/032)

  • This study compared the written and oral narratives of school-aged children with Down syndrome to a control group of typically developing children matched by reading level. Results showed that the children with Down syndrome demonstrated many of the same oral and written narrative skills as children in the control group. Fine motor challenges may have influenced the length of written narratives for children with Down syndrome.

Bracey, S., Maggs, A., & Morath. P. (1975). The effects of direct phonics approach in teaching reading to six moderately retarded children: Acquisition and mastery learning stages. Exceptional Child, 22, 83-90.

  • This study used direct instruction in phonics to teach reading to students with intellectual disabilities. Results showed improvement in the ability to decode sounds, blend sounds into words, and decode whole words.

Bradford, S., Shippen, M.E., Alberto, P., Houchins, D.E., & Flores, M. (2006). Using systematic instruction to teach decoding skills to middle school students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 41, 333-343.

  • This study researched the use of the Corrective Reading Program to teach decoding skills to students with intellectual disabilities. All participants learned specific phonics and phonemic awareness skills.

Browder, D. M., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Courtade, G., Gibbs, S. L., & Flowers, C. (2008). Evaluation of the effectiveness of an early literacy program for students with significant developmental disabilities using group randomized trial research. Exceptional Children, 75, 33-52.

  • This study compared a multisensory, structured, systematic reading program (Early Literacy Skills Builders) with the Edmark Reading Program, which uses a sight-word- only approach. The ELSB students scored significantly higher than the Edmark group on four measures.

Burgoyne, K., Duff, F. J., Clarke, P. J., Buckley, S., Snowling, M. J. and Hulme, C. (2012), Efficacy of a reading and language intervention for children with Down syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02557.x

  • This study of reading interventions for children with Down syndrome used a waiting list control design, in which half of the participants received the intervention immediately, and the other half received the intervention after a 20-week delay. Instruction focused on phonemic awareness, letter/sound association, word reading and vocabulary. Participants who received the intervention showed significantly greater progress than the control group.  Effects did not generalize to skills that were not taught directly. Greater progress was observed in younger children, children who attended more instructional sessions and those who had more developed receptive language skills at the start of intervention.

Conners, F.A., Atwell J.A., Rosenquist C.J., Sligh A.C. (2001). Abilities underlying decoding differences in children with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.45(4):292–299.

  • This article explored the ability to rehearse or refresh phonological codes in working memory in children with intellectual disabilities. This ability appears to be more important than intelligence, language ability and phonemic awareness in predicting reading success.

Groen, M. A., Laws, G., Nation, K., & Bishop, D. M. (2006). A case of exceptional reading accuracy in a child with Down syndrome: Underlying skills and the relation to reading comprehension. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 23(8), 1190-1214. doi:10.1080/02643290600787721

  • This article examined the advanced reading abilities of a child with Down syndrome. Strong phonological awareness skills and strengths in visual and verbal short-term memory were identifed as important factors in the child’s reading achievement. This case study supports other research indicating that phonological awareness skills are an important factor in proficient reading for children with Down syndrome.

Hulme, C., Goetz, K., Brigstocke, S., Nash, H., Lervåg, A., Snowling, M. J. (2012). The growth of reading skills in children with Down Syndrome. Developmental Science, 320-329 doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01129.x.

  • Results of a 2-year longitudinal study of 49 children with Down syndrome and 61 typically developing children concluded that phonemic awareness and vocabulary were strong predictors of early reading achievement for both groups. However, the influence of phonemic awareness skills on long-term reading outcomes appeared to be stronger for typically developing children than for children with Down syndrome.

Joseph, L.M. & Seery, M.E., (2004). Where is the phonics? A review of the literature on the use of phonetic analysis with students with mental retardation. Remedial and Special Education, 25(2) 88-94

  • A review of the literature that concluded that students with intellectual disabilities can learn to read using a phonics-based approach to instruction.

Kliewer, C., & Biklen, D. (2001). “School’s not really a place for reading”: A research synthesis of the literate lives of students with severe disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 26, 1-12.

  • Ethnographic studies of students with significant disabilities revealed a consistent lack of focus on teaching reading. This population of students is cited as least likely to learn to read without carefully planned, explicit instruction.

Lemons, C. J., & Fuchs, D. (2010). Phonological awareness of children with Down syndrome: Its role in learning to read and the effectiveness of related interventions. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 31(2), 316-330. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2009.11.002

  • The authors investigated the effectiveness of providing phonological awareness (PA) training in combination with phonics instruction for children who were previously taught to read using only a whole word approach. Results from a review of 20 studies indicated that the addition of phonological awareness and phonics instruction to a whole word approach resulted in an improvement in the ability to sound out unfamiliar words for at least some children with Down syndrome.

Lemons, C. J., & Fuchs, D. (2010). Modeling Response to Reading Intervention in Children With Down Syndrome: An Examination of Predictors of Differential Growth. Reading Research Quarterly, 45(2), 134-168.

  • The purpose of this study was to identify child characteristics that predict growth in reading skills (phonological awareness, sound-symbol association and decoding) in response to reading intervention. Participants made statistically significant growth in identifying letter sounds, decoding, and reading sight words explicitly taught. Students with more advanced skills at the start of the study made greater growth. Findings indicate that explicit, systematic reading instruction benefits many children with Down syndrome.

Nash, H., & Heath, J. (2011). The role of vocabulary, working memory and inference making ability in reading comprehension in Down syndrome. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(5), 1782-1791. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2011.03.007

  • This study confirmed that reading comprehension in individuals with Down syndrome is strongly correlated with language skills. The study further found that the reading profile of children with Down syndrome was similar to that of other at-risk readers who demonstrated comprehension difficulties. The authors suggest that oral language programs designed to help struggling readers with comprehension may be effective in improving the reading comprehension of children with Down syndrome.

Ricci, L. L. (2011). Home literacy environments, interest in reading and emergent literacy skills of children with Down syndrome versus typical children. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55(6), 596-609. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2011.01415.x

  • This study examined the home literacy environments and level of interest in reading of pre-school-aged children with Down syndrome and typically developing peers. Results confirm the findings of other studies showing the positive effects of early reading intervention on the reading achievement of children with Down syndrome.

Scheffel, D. L., Shaw, J. C., & Shaw, R. (2008). The efficacy of a supplemental multisensory reading program for first grade students. Reading Improvement, 45(3), 139-152

  • This study found that a supplemental multisensory reading program led to accelerated progress in reading proficiency.

Slavin, R., Lake, C., Davis, S. & Madden, N. (2011). Effective programs for struggling readers: A best-evidence synthesis. Educational Research Review, 6, (1), 1-26.

  • A review of 97 studies found that one-to-one tutoring by trained teachers was effective in improving reading performance for at-risk readers. Small-group instruction was not found to be as effective as one-to-one instruction. Computer-assisted instruction had few effects on reading.

van Bysterveldt, A. K., Gillon, G. T., & Moran, C. (2006). Enhancing phonological awareness and letter knowledge in preschool children with Down syndrome. International Journal of Disability, Development & Education, 53(3), 301-329. doi:10.1080/10349120600847706

  • In this study, parents were trained to deliver a reading intervention to their preschool children with Down syndrome. The program combined phonological awareness and letter- knowledge training. The intervention resulted in statistically significant gains in letter knowledge, print concepts and phonemic awareness.

Verucci, L. L., Menghini, D. D., & Vicari, S. S. (2006). Reading skills and phonological awareness acquisition in Down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50(7), 477-491. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00793.x

  • This article reports the results of a study of phonological awareness training for children with Down syndrome. Research has shown that phonological awareness, which is critical to the development of decoding skills, is a significant challenge for children with DS. The results of the current study add to the research base that indicates that it is possible to teach phonological awareness to children with Down syndrome with targeted, systematic intervention.

Wise, J. C., Sevcik, R. A., Romski, M., & Morris, R. D. (2010). The relationship between phonological processing skills and word and nonword identification performance in children with mild intellectual disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 31(6), 1170-1175

  • This study of children with mild intellectual disabilities found that phonological awareness skills significantly correlated with reading achievement and vocabulary knowledge.

Relationship of teacher skill and knowledge with reading outcomes:

Bell, S. M., Ziegler, M., & R. S. McCallum. (2004). What adult educators know compared with what they say they know about providing research-based reading instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47, 542-563.

  • Teachers in this study reported having advanced knowledge of research based reading instruction yet demonstrated significant gaps in knowledge in the areas of alphabetic knowledge, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension

Bos, C., Mather, N., Dickson, S., Podhajski, B., & Chard, D. (2001). Perceptions and knowledge of preservice and inservice educators about early reading instruction. Annals of Dyslexia, 51, 97-120.

  • Educators who teach reading to students with disabilities must be skilled in systematic, explicit instructional methods and must have knowledge of English language structure. Many teachers are not adequately prepared to provide research-based reading instruction.

Hinnant, J., O’Brien, M., & Ghazarian, S. R. (2009). The longitudinal relations of teacher expectations to achievement in the early school years. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 662-670.

  • Study found that teacher expectations are related to student achievement in reading and are more strongly related to achievement for children at risk of reading failure.

Lyon, G., & Weiser, B. (2009). Teacher knowledge, instructional expertise, and the development of reading proficiency. Journal Of Learning Disabilities, 42(5), 475-480.

  • Teacher knowledge and instructional expertise in teaching reading have been found in numerous studies to be related to student reading achievement.

Moats, L. C., & Foorman, B. R. (2003). Measuring teachers’ content knowledge of language and reading. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 23-45

  • Longitudinal, four-year study of reading instruction showed predictive relationship between teacher knowledge of reading related concepts and reading achievement.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

  • The Panel determined that professional development for teachers in teaching reading results in significantly higher reading achievement for their students.

Stainthorp, R. (2004). W(h)ither phonological awareness? Literate trainee teachers’ lack of stable knowledge about the sound structure of words. Educational Psychology, 24, 753-765.

  • Teachers must have explicit training and the opportunity to practice their skills in manipulating the sound structure of words (phonological awareness) in order to teach these skills effectively to students.

Wallace, M. (2009). Making sense of the links: Professional development, teacher practices, and student achievement. Teachers College Record, 111(2), 573-596.

  • Study confirms the link between teacher preparation and student academic achievement.

Compiled by: Kathleen M. Whitbread, Ph.D. 

3 thoughts on “Research

  1. I have a 16 yr old daughter w/DS. Her name is Chantel. When she was born, the doctors and nurses didn’t know right away that she had DS. It was over 12 hour time period when they realized it. They noticed some of the characteristics that she had. Her heart was checked and it was discovered that she had a VSD and a paten ductus (not sure of spelling) that didn’t close. I knew nothing about DS but was already so in love with her that I didn’t worry about it. I somehow knew it would be ok. She was a great baby and things were moving along fairly smoothly until her 5th month. She got sick with bronchitis and things with her heart went downhill. She needed surgery. She had that at 8 1/2 months old and by that time she was in full congestive heart failure, had stopped breathing several times and was one very ill baby. Heart surgery day was one of the longest, most terrifying day of my life. She did great and once all healed, she was a new kid. Life progressed then boom we were hit with another life-threatening illness– Leukemia diagnosed at age 2. Chemo went well and she managed to stay healthy until end of treatments when she ended up with yet another life-threatening illness– a skin infection. She was in the hospital for 6 wks fighting for her life. It took her 2 yrs to be rid of that infection. It was during the 6 wks in the hospital when she went deaf from several of the medicines she received. We didn’t know she was deaf till she was 4 when the infection was gone and we could get back to regular schedule of tests, hearing being one of those. That diagnosis was harder to take then the DS one. I am sorry this is getting to be lengthy, but after 16 yrs, she has a long story. Through all of this stuff, she was the best patient and still managed to be happy even on her sickest days. She amazes us –with all that she has been through, she rarely complains. She attends a school for the deaf and has for 9 yrs now. I wouldn’t change her or any of our experiences. They have taught me so much about life, myself and to appreciate all the little things each day brings.

    • Riadh–thank you so much for sharing your daughter’s story. I am sorry it took so long to respond to your post. Somehow it ended up in the Spam folder. I am happy I checked because I know that other readers will be glad to have the opportunity to read about how your daughter has triumphed over so many challenges. Thank you again for taking the time to write. I would be very interested to hear about how the school for the deaf approaches reading instruction.

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